There’s a special place in my heart for Star Wars. I remember watching the first movie (A New Hope, not that hot garbage that had pod racing…) as a zygote and being amazed that such a thing could go on a screen. I think I dragged my poor mother to that like seven times at the cinemas, just to get more. I’m a big fan of the original trilogy (no again, not that shit starting with pod racing), and am one of the people who thinks Rogue One is one of the best movies made.
Believe me when I tell you that, until recently, I felt all hope was lost with Star Wars books. The plots felt shallow, hurried, and pure fan exploitation without a wise monarch to guide the overall narrative of the universe canon. I was pretty pleased when I found out Chuck Wendig was penning a series to take place after the original trilogy (…we both know which trilogy I’m talking about now, right?). I’m late to the party, but I hope to do the Aftermath Trilogy justice here.
I picked up the stories on audio, and man, TL;DR but let me tell you this is a thing you need to get into. Our story stars with Aftermath, and a collection of humans that very much make up a rag-tag crew (we’ll get onto that in a minute). There’s the usual Star Wars tropes of good versus evil, but things here are more nuanced. The Empire’s dead, right? Except, not everyone got the memo. The once-structured military of the oppressors is in its death throes, and people in charge of the headless corpse are behaving badly.
Worse, the New Republic is behaving like a start-up that’s become successful. The growing pains are visible everywhere, and people you could once rely on to do the right thing because it was right are falling to political expediency to stay in power. The lines between good and evil blur, leaving a gritty residue at the bottom of the glass. You don’t know who to trust, not in the trite way of popular TV where villains become paragons, but in the real-world way that the future is uncertain, and our heroes turn out to be just … people.
Where the New Republic and fallen Empire clash, they leave a slurry where star systems crumble. Good people, whole planets of them, are left to die, because saving everyone’s impossible, and the universe is fresh out of hope.
It’s into this milieu that Norra Wexley arrives, trying to get her son Temmin to safety. Old hand Wedge Antilles is involved from the start, creating an uncomfortable pressure as feelings between him and Norra bloom. Why? Because Norra’s husband’s missing, but it’s been years. How long should a person wait, especially during wartime? That’s the bread-and-butter captaincy of the series, but for my money the real heroes are Sinjir Rath Velus and his (eventually) good and excellent friend, Jas Emari. Jas is a bounty hunter with debts to pay, and Sinjir’s an ex-Imperial, looking for a way to get the red off his ledger.
Being Star Wars, it’s still mostly a family show, but the hardship for the team is real, and their bonds are tested as they work against the villain Admiral Rae Sloane. Sloane’s conflict is obvious at first: keep her beloved Empire running, despite fuckwittery from within. Things become more nuanced towards the end of the trilogy; Sloane’s not evil, but might have done evil things in service to a greater good. Wendig’s excellent writing brings her out as a believable fallen star; she worked hard for the Empire, against the villainy of the Republic, and all she’s held dear is burning alive.
There are hidden puppet masters, hints of a new emperor, and more hints of the old one still being around. Without giving spoilers, we’ve got an ending in the series’ finale Empire’s End that will leave you fist-pumping the sky. There’s justice, and redemption, despite friends who fall along the way.
…let’s talk about the audio for a minute. The trilogy is narrated by Marc Thomson. I don’t know where they found this guy, but he’s amazing. There’s no silly voices for women here, and yet he manages to narrate what feels like a thousand distinct characters and never leave your ear confused. He takes Wendig’s excellent prose and presses meaning into it; excitement flows from combat, and emotion oozes from impossible situations the characters find themselves in. It really feels like two masters of their craft found each other to make something special – a once-in-a-life-time production that’s better than any radio show you’ll find on our blue-green planet.
Being Star Wars, you’ll also get sound effects. Blaster fire cracks during combat. Ships jump to lightspeed with the intensity you’d expect. Background audio’s used to provide ominous overtones, or the hum of starships. It’s like listening to a movie, and is a blast.
Do yourself a favour, and check the series out today. The first book is fun, but got some harsh reviews I think because, well, the story’s not done. Wendig took the risk of making an epic tale amid also-ran Star Wars singles, and while readers of the usual stories might fret, you need to know just one thing: it all pays off over the trilogy to a spectacular finale. This is an easy five-star journey. Treat yourself today: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Star Wars: Aftermath: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt
Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End
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